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‘From master to mess boy’ – K Line KARE project tackles safety culture

Wed 08 Feb 2017 by Karen Thomas

‘From master to mess boy’ – K Line KARE project tackles safety culture
Yuzuru Goto: "People have great ideas. We need to tap into that"

Japan’s third-largest LNG shipowner is rolling out an innovative human resources programme that aims to transform its safety culture. K Line’s radical KARE programme takes a bottom-up approach to empower and engage crew and shore-based staff. Karen Thomas reports

K Line is rolling out a shipmanagement initiative for its Europe-managed fleet to improve service quality and safety performance and to promote openness within the company, on shore and on land.

The KARE project aims to encourage staff at all levels to speak out and speak up, to benefit safety and service quality.

Japanese shipping conglomerate K Line has two in-house LNG shipmanagement units.

Japan-based K Line Shipmanagement (KLSM) Tokyo manages five ships on the water; three on long-term charter to BP-led Tangguh LNG and two to Qatargas I. It will also manage four ships delivered this year, for Chubu Electric and now fixed to JERA, for Inpex and for Australia’s Ichthys LNG project.

K Line LNG Shipping UK (KLNG) manages eight LNG carriers on the water. It will take over three newbuildings booked against US exports, chartered to BP for Freeport LNG and to Mitsui for Cameron LNG, delivered in 2018-2020.

KLNG launched the KARE Project two years ago. It chose seven seafarers to lead the project and held a two-day workshop in Windsor to identify the stakeholders, business goals and living values and to agree the issues to be tackled, ship and shore.

As part of the KLNG 2020 business plan, it seeks to change the company’s culture, to help stakeholders to carry LNG safely and to energise those involved.


Eighteen months ago, the 145,200m³, Mitsui-chartered Trinity Glory hosted the first on-board safety culture workshop. Next came the RasGas-chartered trio, 210,157m³ Umm Al Amad, 145,702m³ Al Thakhira, 210,198m³ Al Oraiq, and the BP-chartered 147,608m³ Celestine River. KLNG will now roll out the programme across its remaining three live ships.

Because human error contributes to 80-90 per cent of unwanted incidents on board ship, the safety culture initiative works from the ground up. Workshops feature white boards and brain-storming sessions. But there is time, too, for ice-breaking games, for singing, role-play and encouraging everyone to speak from the heart.

Success means everyone on board gaining the confidence to speak at the ship’s daily morning meeting, whether to discuss problems or to suggest new ideas. KARE aims to promote engagement – making crew feel listened to and heard, contributing to more than just the daily task ahead. It encourages all crew to discuss and agree courses of action and give open, honest feedback on progress.

“The human element in our shipmanagement business is a soft, fluffy, abstract theme but we’ve managed to turn this into specific behaviours and agreed actions that lead to a mature safety culture,” says KLNG managing director Yuzuru Goto.

“It’s about changing the behaviours of our people to help others, from master to mess boy, and thus the culture of the whole organisation. It’s also about breaking down any barriers between ship and shore and developing trust.”


Measuring the impact of the KARE Project is a work in progress. Oslo-based consultancy Propel is gathering the qualitative and quantitative data, to compare the maturity of KLNG’s safety culture before and after.

However, there are early signs that it is already delivering change.

In the K Line Kourier, the chart that lists the KLNG managers features photos and first names only. The goal is to eliminate accidents altogether. But the impact will be measured in many ways, Mr Goto concludes, from staff-retention rates and off-hire statistics to organisation performance.

“It’s about treating everyone equally, so that everyone feels that their voice is heard – everyone feeling inspired to start work every day,” he says.

“People have great ideas. And we need to tap into that. The maturity level of your safety culture is strongly linked to the number of major accidents – there’s a strong correlation between these two things. If you can measure it, you can work on it.”



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